A History of Bingo – Through the ages
If you’re reading this article, then it’s highly likely that you love your bingo as much as we do. However, have you ever stopped to think about how the game originated, and how it became the online and mobile sensation it is today? We’ve done some investigation into its background and looked at its different forms over the years to bring you what we hope you’ll agree is a very interesting story. Here is our concise history of bingo!
Viva Bingo Italia!
Historical records show that our favourite game originated in Italy in the early 16th century. In 1530, a state-run lottery was started, called Lo Gioco del Lotto d’Italia, and proved to be so popular that you can even play it to this day, as it’s run every week on Saturdays.
Oh la la bingo
It next appeared in a slightly different form over in France around 1770, where it was affectionately named Le Lotto. Much like today, it was played using cards, which were formed of nine vertical columns and three horizontal rows, with randomly arranged numbers and four blank boxes. Every card was unique. The game was played with 90 numbers, although these days we commonly see 80 and 75-ball variations. A caller would draw numbered chips from a bag, and the players would mark off their cards as each one was called out. The first player to mark-off all five boxes within a horizontal row was declared the winner and would receive the prize money. Because it cost quite a bit to play, only the richest French folk tended to enjoy Le Lotto.
In Germany, Lotto was used in the 19th century to help students learn maths, spelling and history. It’s still commonly played in schools today, to aid the learning of subjects such as languages and arithmetic.
Bingo under fire
The game originally played by the French back in the 1700s was resurrected during World War I, when English soldiers would frequently spend their spare time playing “Housey-Housey” (which is probably where the term ‘full house’ originated from.) No doubt intrigued by the activities of their English counterparts, US troops started to play too, and the game became known as Beano back on American soil. Bingo really took off in the US when a toy salesman from New York called Edwin Lowe remarketed it as Bingo after hearing a player mispronounce it, and by 1930, the game had spread like wildfire, initially being heavily used for fundraising purposes by social clubs and churches.
The rise and fall of the high street club
The first dedicated club formed in Britain was the Castle Leisure Bingo Hall in Cardiff, which was built in 1856. However, clubs really started popping up in earnest after the British Betting and Gaming act legalised social gaming in 1960. Now, in the early 21st century, Mecca, Gala and independent clubs can be found spread across the length and breadth of the UK. However, according to recent government statistics, the amount of high street clubs has reduced drastically from 650 in 1997 to just 200 in 2012. This drop is believed to be partially due to the flagging financial climate, as well as the uptake in the online version of the game, which is far more convenient to the average, modern consumer.
Home and away
Today, bingo remains one of the favourite games in the world. In the US, it’s legalised in 48 states, and in the UK, eight percent of the population (over 3 million people) enjoy playing one form or another.
The first online website to offer bingo was launched back in the late 1990s and now, there are several hundred sites in existence in the UK, with more than 3 million people playing every day, making it the third most popular location in the world to play (the US and Japan are reportedly first and second.)
With the recent emergence of smart-phone technology, more and more brands are turning to mobile offerings, giving players the opportunity to enjoy their favourite games on the move, from anywhere in the world, and at any time of the day or night. It is a little too early to study statistics for mobile as yet, but some experts predict that it will not be too long before it outgrows both land-based and online operations.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the concise history of the game we have come to know and love! We hope you enjoyed reading it, and that you’ve learned some interesting facts along the way. Next time you’re playing, just remember that there’s almost 500 years of tradition behind the game, making it nearly 200 years older than the sport of cricket!